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Liberty Township, Parke County Indiana

"From the History of Vigo and Parke Counties, together with Historic Notes on the Wabash Valley, Gleaned from early authors, old maps and manuscripts, private and official correspondence, and other authentic, though for the most part, out-of-the-way sources. By H. W. Beckwith, of the Danville Bar; Corresponding Member of the Historical Societies of Wisconsin and Chicago. Chicago: H. H. Hill and N. Iddings, Publishers. 1880." (Pages 350 - 357)


Liberty township occupies the northwestern corner of the county, the Wabash river being its western boundary ; on the north is Fountain county, while south and east its boundaries are respectively Reserve and Howard townships. Coal, Mill and Rush creeks and their tributaries flow through it and furnished power for the various mills which formerly were located on their banks. The township is thickly settled, having, according to the census of 1880, a population of 1,774, an increase during the last ten years of 234, the same reports showing the value of real estate to be $449,202, and that of the personal property $168,385.. In the northwest and southeast the land is very broken; with this exception, however, it is composed of some of the finest farming and grazing land in the county; while on the west are the bottom lands, which, for raising corn, cannot be excelled anywhere, in a favorable season. Liberty formerly consisted of thirty-nine full and six fractional sections, but a few years ago Secs. 35 and 36 and the south halves of 25 and 26 were cut off to form part of Penn township.

The first settlements were made in the northwest part of the township about 1821-2, when Abe Timberman, William and Edward Brockway and Samuel Arnot came up the Wabash and pitched their tent in the wilderness, while in 1825 David Shirk arrived, who, in addition to the severe labor of making a farm out of the green woods, preached the gospel to the early settlers all over this part of the country, he being one of the pioneer preachers of the old Baptist denomination. Early in the same year John Richmond located here, and was followed by the Burtons, who entered the land on which Howard now stands.    In 1823 Jacob Bowsher and his family emigrated hither and located on Sugar creek, in Sec. 25, at which time the Indians still occupied this part of the country, a village of 150 wigwams standing on his land, the chief of the band being known as John Cornstalk; they were at this time, however, very friendly to the settlers, and did them no hurt beyond occasionally stealing a hog or calf. On one occasion, while the tribe were off on a hunting expedition, a young man named Steever, uncle to Mr. David Steever. of this township, set fire to and burnt down their village.  On their return they donned the war-paint and marched on Bowsher's house, demanding that he inform them who had committed the outrage, promising that if the desired information was forthcoming not to harm any one but the guilty party. Mr. Bowsher, in self-defense, was compelled to inform on Steever, but took the precaution to dispatch his son Joseph on horseback to give him warning, which enabled him to reach the settlement before his pursuers caught up with him, who gave up the chase after a run of sixty miles. Shortly afterward the Indians removed to the reservation, and only small parties were occasionally seen in this neighborhood thereafter. A graveyard was situated not far from the location of their village in which were over one hundred graves: one rather more elaborately constructed than the rest was supposed to have been that of a chief, which, after the Indians had been gone some time, was broken open by Joseph Bowsher and some more of the boys, a string of gold beads, a butcher-knife and some other relics being found.

In 1824 Lawson Hoffman, then nineteen years old, settled in the southern part, and is now the oldest voter in the township, the next oldest being John Thompson, who arrived in 1828 and located near Lodi, and was followed in the same year by Isaac Harvey. The early comers in what is known as the Rush Creek settlement arrived here about 1830, the first being James Marks, who came from Kentucky and bought 160 acres, where his son George now lives, after paying for which at the land office, and settling for his supper and bed, had 12 1/2 cents left to begin the world on. In the same year Jesse Osborn arrived, and a year later Isaac Weaver located; then James Woody, who came 1833, who was followed in 1834 by George Towell and George Marris, while Thomas, Jonathan, Lot and David Lindley arrived about 1832.

A tanyard was put in operation in 1836 by Harlan Harvey, who came from Warren county, Ohio, and was run by him and his partner, George Madden, who arrived in 1837, for sixteen years. In 1840 Mr. Maddan laid out a nursery, which furnished fruit trees and ornamental shrubs for a wide scope of territory.

The main body of the settlers in this neighborhood belong to the Society of Friends, and with their characteristic love of religion a congregation was formed in 1832, immediately after their arrival, by Isaac Hobson, David and Lot Lindley, and others. In that year they erected a log meeting-house 18x22, which was warmed in winter by a charcoal fire in the center, a hole being left in the roof to allow the smoke to escape. The first couple married in this house were Isaac Lindley and Martha Marris. The log church served the society till 1840, when a frame building 25 X 50 was erected, one half of which is now doing duty as a barn for Dr. Gillum, of Sylvania; and in 1872 the present structure was built at a cost of $1,800. The congregation now numbers between 300 and 400 members, the present trustees being John Harvey and Henry Durham. A large Sunday-school is carried on by the members of this church, the organization dating back to 1855, when James Woody (who settled here in 1833) instituted a class which met during the summer months, the average attendance at that time being thirty-three; now it is conducted throughout the year and averages 100. The superintendent is Sarah Lindley, and secretary Amanda Andrews.

We find that here, as well as in all other early settlements, the pioneers did not lack religious instruction; the pioneer preachers always put in an early appearance, and were distinguished from ordinary travelers by the saddle-bags, containing the clean shirt and ever present bible and hymn-book. The first proclaimers of the gospel in this territory were David Shirk, of the old Baptist denomination, and Isaac Pickard, of the United Brethren, who preached the word at various points throughout this part of the state for many years, holding their meetings in the log houses and barns of the people, swimming streams, penetrating the forest, and facing numerous hardships and dangers in fulfilling their mission.

The first school-house was a log structure which stood near Sylvania, and was erected in 1830, the first teacher being Isaac Hobson, who also kept a small store at his house on Rush creek. John Chahey opened a store in 1836, retailing coffee, tea, sugar and tinware. Another, owned by a stock company, was situated west of Rush creek meeting-house, in which W. Hadley officiated as clerk. At that time prices here ranged as follows: calico 50 cents per yard,coffee 50 cents per pound, and salt $5 per barrel, while wages ruled from 35 to 40 cents per day for labor, and in harvest, with the reap-hook, 37 1/2 cents per day.

The mill to which the early settlers had to take their grists was located near the mouth of Sugar creek, and was owned by an old man named John Beard, who arrived in the county at an early day. A saw-mill, run by water-power, was built on Rush creek by a man named Reid, in 1826, who eventually sold out to Manwarring. At the same time there was a small corn-cracker in the northwest corner of the township: also a water-mill in the southern part. The first steam saw-mill was built in 1848 on Sec. 16, by O. P. Davis, who, with his partner, James Woody, conducted it successfully for many years.

About a mile east of the village of Howard is a graveyard, in which many of the early settlers are interred. It is situated on a large mound in Mill Creek bottoms, and is supposed by many to have been the work of the mound-builders. Such, however, is a mistake, as it is evidently a natural formation of the drift period. It has been used by the Indians as a place of burial for a long period, as in digging graves numerous skeletons and detached bones are found, the remains being generally found in a sitting position. Some of the bones found were those of persons who must have been from six feet six inches to seven feet in height; others of a smaller size. In the possession of Dr. Gillum, of Sylvania, are two bones which were exhumed here, the fibula and tibia of the right leg of a person of medium size. On the east side of the mound is an old log building, which was erected in 1835 as a school-house, in which a great number of the citizens received their education, John Thompson having been among the first teachers. Another was Miss Mary Bright, who married Dr. John Calvin Piercy, one of the earliest physicians in the county. From her and in this old school-house Mr. John  H. Beadle received the early portion of his education.



In the township are situated the villages of Waterman, Howard and Sylvania. The former, situated in the northwest corner of the township, was formerly known as Lodi, the name being changed in 1857 to Waterman, in honor of Dr. Waterman, who settled there in that year, and was instrumental in improving and building up the business interests and trade of the place, having opened a large general store and pork-packing establishment. A large business was done here, as at all the river towns, in shipping provisions, grain and other produce to New Orleans on flat-boats, the salt-well of Norborn Thomas also attracting considerable trade, and when the Wabash and Erie canal was opened it was largely increased, but on the closing of that commercial highway the town slowly decayed. The prospect of a railroad running through the town is now creating considerable interest, and, should it be built will tend greatly to raising it to its former importance. A large flouring-mill is in process of construction by C. K. Bright and L. C. Davis, which will be quite an acquisition. The business establishments consist of one drug store, one dry-goods and grocery store, two blacksmith shops, one sawmill, and two physicians.

The religious wants of the people are supplied through the two-churches here situated. The Baptist church was organized at au early date, and the present building erected in 1869, at a cost of $2,800, and was dedicated by the Rev. C. B. Alien. The Methodist church cost $1,200, and was built in the same year, 1869, the preacher through whose efforts the building was erected being  Rev. William Smith.

A strong lodge of the Masonic fraternity is here situated, known as the Lodiville Lodge, No. 172, A. F. and A. M. The charter bears the date May 1855, the first officers and charter members being: W.M., J. M.T. Bright: S.W., N. Thomas; J.W.. A. R. Hood; secretary, Samuel Richmond; Isaac Carman, Andrew Baker, D. G. Ephlin and Michael Ephlin. The lodge now numbers thirty-nine members, with the following brethren in office :  W.M.. George W. DeVerter; S.W., S. H. Samuels: J.W, W. H. Wann: treasurer, James Chatt: secretary, James Givens.

Howard, formerly known as Westport, is situated on the river, and was laid out in 1827 on land owned by J. and J. Burton, who built a house there, and opened store among the first in the township. It grew rapidly, and numerous business houses were established, among the largest operators being James H. Beadle and Harlan Harvey, who shipped grain and pork to New Orleans and other southern markets in flat-boats. After the canal was opened business increased greatly, there being at one time two large dry-goods stores, two grain warehouses, and numerous stores and workshops. Now all are gone, no traces of its former business prosperity being visible except the dry bottom of the canal and the frame of a grain warehouse which is tumbling to pieces.

The Methodists and Cumberland Presbyterians have meetinghouses here. The former, erected in 1846, cost $350 in money, the most of the labor having been donated. At that time the membership was 200 ; now it only numbers twenty.    The first preacher was Rev. Isaiah Smith, the present one being Rev. S. M. Haves.

In 1847 the Presbyterian congregation organized with twenty members, and in the following year built their first meeting-house, which was burnt down, but rebuilt in 1877 at a cost of $800. The first preacher on record was Rev. James Ashmore. Now the congregation, which numbers sixty members, is under the pastorship of Rev. T. A. Williams.

Sylvania, one of the most enterprising villages in the county, is situated on the N. W> ¼ of Sec. 14, and is of more recent organization than Howard or Waterman. The first to begin business at the present site was Henry Durham, who opened a blacksmith shop. Following him were Atkinson and M. Stout, who each opened stores. Mr. Durham went into general merchandising, and sold out to Gillum Brothers, who still carry on business. The business establishments consist of two dry-goods and grocery stores, harness-shop, shoe-shop, two blacksmith shops, broom-handle and picket-fence factory, tile factory, bee-hive and apiarian supply establishment, wagon-shop and saw and planing mill, and a photographic gallery and physician.

In 1878 was begun the building known as the Union Church, now used by the Methodists and Cumberland Presbyterians as a meetinghouse. It was completed in August 1879, having cost $850. John W. Jackson, W. B. Gillum and S. McMasters are the trustees. The Methodist congregation was organized in 1879 by the present preacher. Rev. S. M. Hayes, and has a present membership of thirty, who meet every three weeks.

The Presbyterian congregation was instituted March 10, 1876. The first preacher, and under whom the society was formed, was Rev. J. W. Hanna. It now numbers fourteen members, and meets every four weeks under the ministry of Rev. T. A. Williams.

Sylvania Lodge, A. F. and A. M., is an organization of recent formation, having been instituted April 24, 1880, and is now working under dispensation. The officers and organizers are: M. W., Ira Gillum: S. W., M. M. Madden: J. W.,  Ira B. Brown; secretary, M. R. Stanton : John W.. Jackson. Joel Commons,  W. R.  Parent, Jesse McCoy and others.

The Union Sabbath-school was organized in 1879, and holds its sessions every Sabbath throughout the year, and has. enrolled seventy scholars, with an' average attendance of fifty-seven. W. B. Gillum is superintendent, and Miss Lou H. Osborne, secretary.

Liberty Lodge, A.O.U.W, was organized  here   quite recently, and has a membership of twelve.

In 1837 or 1838 a mysterious murder was committed in the northwestern part of the township, the murderer in this case also having escaped. The facts of the case are as follows: In the summer of 1837 or 1838 a man named Mead, a resident of the northwestern corner of Liberty, had been in Lodi one morning purchasing some goods, among other things having bought two hoes, a clothes-line, some sugar and coffee, and left for home with his purchases on horseback. On passing his father-in-law's residence he stopped and ground the hoes, and refusing an invitation to dinner proceeded toward home. This was the last time he was seen alive. Half an hour after he left his father-in-law's a neighbor came along, and, taking the same track, found Mead's horse cropping grass by the wayside. Thinking that the animal had broken loose, he took it to Mead's house and left it with his wife. Some few days elapsed and Mead did not turn up. A few days after his disappearance two men passing along the road were surprised at the enormous number of flies crossing the track, and apparently centering in a thicket about three rods from the road. After a short search they found the body of Mead in an advanced state of decomposition. When found, the body was lying on its right side, an empty bottle and a dead rattlesnake being situated close by, evidently to give the impression that the man had been bitten by the reptile, yet had succeeded in killing it before he expired. This, however, would not work well, as it was easily seen that the man had been dead some days before the snake, the latter being in a good state of preservation, while the former was very much decomposed. Suspicion pointed to Louis Thomas as being the guilty party, there having existed considerable ill feeling between him and the deceased. He was arrested by Constable John Thompson, and brought to trial before Squire Reynolds. Evidence sufficient to convict was not forthcoming, and Thomas proved where he had been all the day on which the murder was supposed to have been committed with the exception of an hour, and was acquitted. The articles purchased by Mead were afterward found concealed in a hollow log by the wayside, a short distance from where the body was discovered.

Educational facilities are ample in this township, there being twelve districts and fourteen school-houses, all in good repair, and fitted up with all the latest improvements in school furniture, and a township library of choice and carefully selected literature furnishes suitable reading matter for the people. The present librarian is James Doan.    Mr. Ira Hobson is the present township trustee, and fills that office with honor to himself and satisfaction to the people.


From A History of Lodi, Silverwood, and Silver Island, a compilation of data found in old Parke County histories, family histories, church records, old Parke County newspapers, Silverwood Sun, Kingman Star, old photos, personal interviews, and other sources.  Self-published in 2008 by Pat Bush.*


Lodi, small northwest corner of Parke County mostly insignificant to citizens outside cell phone signal range, was at one time known throughout the nation.  The strange thing is that the notoriety was for a product whose source was across the county line in Fountain County.  To add to the confusion, Lodi  has been known by three different names.


Lodi, originally called Fullerton, was surveyed April 11, 1836 by Peter Blakebell.  On January 26, 1837, the name of the town of Fullerton was changed to Lodi; that change was recorded July 30, 1839.  In 1857 Lodi was officially changed to Waterman in honor of Dr. Richard Waterman whose business enterprises had set the wheels of progress in motion for the little canal town.  When Maj. John and Mrs. Mary Safely bought the Thomas Well in 1883, they petitioned and were granted permission to have the ancient name of Lodi restored.


The history of the Thomas Well illustrates the hardiness of true pioneers and the hopes and dreams that lasted through generations.  A crew of salt and oil prospectors, which included Norbourn and Lewis Thomas, came to the area and discovered a wealth of salt on land owned by William H. Wann.  One well produced water from which could be manufactured 21 bushels of salt per day.  A later well on the same property was capable of producing 200 bushels of salt every twenty-four hours.  Mr. Wann sold the well to Norbourn Thomas in 1868.  Analysis of the water showed it to be equal, if not superior, to any water in the world for medical purposes.  Although the location of the site was just over the line in Fountain County, it was called the Lodi well.  Salt was produced here and was shipped by canal from 1865 throughout the life of the canal.  When the canal closed, the financial gain suffered somewhat, but not for long.


Fortunately, the force of the well did not waver; water at 69.1 degrees Fahrenheit bubbled over the top of a four-inch wooden pipe, eight feet above the surface with an estimated output of 30,000 barrels per day.  When Maj. and Mrs. Safely bought the well, they had the financial resources to take advantage of such excesses; medicinal water was bottled and sold, and plans for a resort began to take place.  People came to bathe in the warm, healing waters and to purchase bottles of the wonderful elixir to take home with them.  Soon, other attractions were added, amusement areas for sports, games, swimming, dancing, and picnic areas.  Lodi Park was the setting for Fourth of July celebrations including Civil War reenactments – you probably thought such events were 20th century ideas, but they were instituted much earlier.  Their dreams of a fabulous hotel and resort never did reach total fruition, but they did set a precedent for future entrepreneurs. 


From The Kingman Star “In 1913 a party of capitalists from Chicago and Indianapolis made a trip to the old artesian well at Silverwood.   A. W. Woodruff, who was the bookkeeper at the old brickyard under Starbuck’s administration, was at the head of the visiting delegation and gave it out among his acquaintances here that the 300 acres of the Safely estate, including the mineral well had been purchased, and the plans were to make the place a popular resort, with bathing houses and a scenic pleasure park.  A car line to run the three miles distance between the place and Cayuga to connect with the railroads here is also mentioned among the probabilities.  It’s now time to take a drink – of Lodi mineral water. – Cayuga Herald.”


Another big plan was afoot in 1914 by a group who had incorporated as the Silverwood Mineral Company with extensive plans.  Apparently, nothing came of those plans.


In 1921 a huge Fourth of July celebration was held at what was then called Lodi Mineral Water Sanitorium Company.  Copies of the program promoted “Indiana’s Greatest Medicinal Geyser That Has Been Flowing Thousands of Barrels Daily For More Than Fifty Years One Of The Best Medicinal Waters In America.”  An account of the success of the program appeared in The Cayuga Herald: “Estimates of the crowd present that day was 5,000 to 7,000 persons. . . that taxed the capacity of the golf field with automobiles up to the edge of the baseball grounds.  The big swimming pool was alive with people, and bathers swamped the place from early morning till late into the night.”


For many years, Lodi Park was the scene of summer activities sponsored by local groups and individual promoters.  As late as the 1960’s ball games, skating rink parties, dances, Fourth of July fireworks, and various activities took place.

Workers accidentally plugged the well while attempting to clean it, and it has never been repaired.  So, after all the good times fondly remembered by many, Lodi Parke is now just that – a memory kept alive by those of us who have been fortunate enough to have access to photos, written records, and oral histories related by those who experienced it in its heyday.


*From the author: 

I have just published a new book A History Of Lodi, Silverwood, and Silver Island.  It contains all the history of the area I have been able to find, including many pictures of the old villages, including pictures of Lodi School and Waterman Baptist Church, an old hotel once situated in Silverwood, and of the development and downfall of Lodi Park.  359 pages + index.

This book and A History of Kingman and A Bush/Patton Genealogy are all available to purchase either from me or at Mary's Variety Store in Kingman.





 If you have any information you would like to add, please send it to my attention.  Thank you.  James D. VanDerMark